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J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Apr;49(4):2082-9.

Assessment of degradation and intestinal cell uptake of carotenoids and chlorophyll derivatives from spinach puree using an in vitro digestion and Caco-2 human cell model.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Technology, The Ohio State University, 140 Howlett Hall, 2001 Fyffe Court, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Although numerous studies have demonstrated the health benefits of chlorophyll derivatives, information regarding the digestion, absorption, and metabolism of these phytochemicals is quite limited. To better understand the digestion of these pigments, green vegetables including fresh spinach puree (FSP), heat- and acid-treated spinach puree (HASP), and ZnCl(2)-treated spinach puree (ZnSP) were subjected to an in vitro digestion method which simulates both the gastric and small intestinal phases of the process. Native chlorophylls were converted to Mg-free pheophytin derivatives during digestion. Conversely, Zn-pheophytins were completely stable during the digestive process. Transfer of lipophilic chlorophyll derivatives, as well as the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene, into the aqueous micellar fraction from the food matrix was quantified. Micellarization of total chlorophyll derivatives differed significantly (p < 0.05) for FSP (37.6%), HASP (17.2%), and ZnSP (8.7%). Micellarization of chlorophyll a derivatives was determined to be significantly more efficient than chlorophyll b derivatives in FSP and HASP (p < 0.01), but not in ZnSP (p > 0.05). Intestinal cell uptake of micellarized pigments was investigated using HTB-37 (parent) and clonal TC7 lines of human Caco-2 cells. Medium containing the pigment-enriched fraction generated during digestion was added to the apical surface of fully differentiated monolayers for 4 h. Pigments were then extracted from cells and analyzed by C18 HPLC with photodiode array detection. Both Caco-2 HTB-37 and TC7 clone cells accumulated 20-40% and 5-10% of micellarized carotenoid and chlorophyll derivatives, respectively. These results are the first to demonstrate uptake of chlorophyll derivatives by human intestinal cells and to support the potential importance of chlorophylls as health-promoting phytochemicals.

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